Home Church Help

Many people who gather in homes for worship and fellowship find that a prescribed formula for church meetings can seem pretentious or false. It is a fact that liturgical worship is hardly biblical. In the New Testament we do find some instructions for church meetings, but there is no prescribed order of events or strict directions for procedure. To preplan and schedule the events in a church meeting is about as beneficial as preplanning an intimate evening with your spouse.

Date Night Agenda:
6:15 pm – Date begins.
6:17 pm – Discussion of the day’s events.
6:22 pm – Share a hug.
6:25 pm – Laugh at a funny joke.
6:26 pm – 1 minute and 26 seconds of silence.

How could you possibly schedule every event of an enjoyable time with someone you love? It may be beneficial to have a general idea of some things you might want to do together, but to over-structure your time will kill all spontaneity. Intimacy is always spontaneous. If you don’t allow for spontaneity, you don’t allow for intimacy. Intimacy with Christ is what the church meeting is all about. This is why you will find only general guidelines in the New Testament for church meetings, but no instructions of ceremonial order that would replace a true interaction with the Spirit.

The same is true for your individual relationship with Christ. It is needful to set aside time during your day to be with the Lord. But if you preplan exactly what you are going to do once you are with Him, you will lose the relationship dynamic. If your individual time with God is truly “time with God”, then how do you know beforehand that He wants you to read the Bible? How do you know He wants you to study a certain devotional book before you even meet with Him?

The corporate church meeting is no different. It is a meeting with Jesus Christ. To assume that the Lord wants 3 specific hymns at 10:45 and an 11:15 message ending by noon detaches us and separates us from a corporate interaction with Christ Himself. This kind of thinking simply manifests the fact that much of our practice of Christianity is void of actually knowing, experiencing, listening to, and encountering Jesus Christ in a real way. Once we have initially connected with the Lord in a real way, either individually or corporately, then by all means we must do exactly as He leads us to do.

It should be pointed out that discovering specific direction from the Lord is never the goal, corporately or individually. The point of life is not to “do what God wants us to do”. Rather, our primary goal is to connect with Him and know His love. This is not a shallow or feel good idea. The depth of this is rarely understood, as most settle for the knowledge of His love, but seldom the experience of it. As we move into our highest and deepest calling of connecting with the life of God in the Spirit; the by-product is that we will know His will.

Church meetings can easily become meetings of our own agenda, instead of a meeting with Christ. Anytime we replace the presence and direction of Christ with a series of religious events, we replace His agenda with ours. It changes from a meeting with the Lord into a meeting with a schedule of events that must take place. For this reason there has been a reaction in many that has resulted in a “home church” mentality. In house church, many of the predictable events in traditional church meetings have been forsaken (at least forsaken in the prescribed order): morning announcements, a series of worship songs, take up donations, message from the pastor, alter call, closing prayer, dismissal. Many of these practices are not bad in and of themselves if accompanied with faith, but to do them while detached from the Spirit or to do them because “it’s what we do at church meetings” becomes empty dead religion.

And here lies the problem. The avoidance of religious procedure has created a setback with much of “home church” thinking. In order to escape the constraints of tradition, the healthy constraints of the Spirit are also being forsaken. When we gather together as the church, we do not want to submit to the empty traditions of men. Yet, we must still submit. We must submit to the Spirit of God. We cannot forsake the heart attitude of submission just because we are not submitting to religiosity. When we come together as the church, we should feel free. Yet, we should not feel free to speak and do things apart from the leading of God’s Spirit. Anything and everything does not go. The church meeting is not a free for all, so to speak. There must be quiet subjection. We must still find an attitude of following, while we forsake the following of procedure and ceremony.

In the church meeting we must make it our primary (and really only) goal to be in intimate contact with the Spirit of God first and foremost. From this place, as we are caught up in His life, we will know His freedom, His leadings, and His directions for the church.

Although we reject empty and vain procedures and traditions, we must make it our priority to first engage in corporate submission and worship of our Head. If you start the church meeting out with praying for needs, expressing a concern, asking a theological question, sharing a personal burden, or ANYTHING else – it becomes very easy to miss the life of God and His leading during the entire meeting. A time that is mostly void of the life of God will likely result. This is not a rule that is always true. Anything that is shared can always be responded to with faith. But without corporate submission up front, it becomes more difficult.

Just as one example, why is starting a meeting with praying for needs not such a good idea? “…for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). As we corporately move into the life of God, He will lead us to pray according to His will. As we pray according to His will (which is what it means to pray “in His name”), it will be done for us (John 14:14).

We must not resist activities that lend themselves to submission and worship, just because we resist empty procedure and ritual. Begin with worshipful prayer. Begin with worshipful song. Begin with worship and submission in silence. Do these things for as long as it takes to corporately move into the life of God. From there the Lord will give you teachings, prayers, encouragements and things to share – and it will all be from Him and not from yourselves.

-Terry Stanley
 

One Response to “One of the Biggest Mistakes in Home Church”

  1. Joel Spackman

    Just found this site and read your blog and just wanted you to know that your article hit home for my wife and I who always have wondered why we have felt sort of displaced in a church building with a scheduled ritual of agendas to do,we now know that home church is right for us and we don\\’t have to feel guilty for not attending a certain church building.

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